Wild Lectionary: She Saw a Well of Water

Desert Well by David Winnie, Creative Commons, 2008

Proper 7, Season After Pentecost

Genesis 21:8-21

The biblical portrait(s) of Hagar include surrogacy, power, African identity, patriarchal family, enslavement, physical violence, pregnancy, migration, wilderness, water and the naming of God as one who sees. These are hard subjects and it would be easy to preach on another text. But when migrant bodies, mothers and children, are dying of thirst in the Arizona desert; when African refugees drown by the thousands in the Mediterranean; when corporations like Nestle, Kinder Morgan, and Dakota Access trample Indigenous women’s teaching that Water is Life; when the story of Isaac and Ishmael is used to normalize the Israeli occupation of Palestine; when overt acts of hatred against Muslims are escalating; and when white women’s complicity in criminalizing black bodies and exonerating murderous police is all but invisible, we cannot side-step this heritage that so profoundly speaks to our present.

Below are a sampling of resources from over three decades that address the challenges of this passage and its companion (Genesis 16), most are by African-descended women.

Phyllis Trible “Hagar: The Desolation of Rejection” Texts of Terror (Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1984) 9-20.

Elsa Tamez, “The Woman Who Complicated the History of Salvation” New Eyes for Reading: Biblical and Theological Reflections by Women from the Third World. 1986

Diana L. Hayes, Hagar’s Daughters: Womanist Ways of Being in the World, Madaleva Lecture in Spirituality, 1995.

Rachel Hackenberg “White Women, Sarah and Hagar,” The Blog, Huffington Post 07/17/2013

Renita J. Weems, “A Mistress, a Maid, and No Mercy (Hagar and Sarah),” in Just a Sister Away: A Womanist Vision of Women’s Relationships in the Bible (San Diego, CA: LuraMedia, 1988),

Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1993),

“Reinterpreting Hagar’s Story,” Jessica Grimes, Lectio Difficilior, 2004.

Bailey, Wilma Ann. “Black and Jewish women consider Hagar.” Encounter. Christian Theological Seminary (Winter 2002) 37-44

Anne Pattel-Gray, ‘The Hard Truth: White Secrets, Black Realities,’ Australian Feminist Studies 14(30) (19991) 259-66.

Mbuwayesango, Dora R., “Childlessness and Woman-To-Woman Relationships in Genesis and in African Patriarchal Society: Sarah and Hagar from a Zimbabwean Woman’s Perspective (Gen 16:1-16; 21:8-21),” Semeia, 1997.


Wild Lectionary, a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in scripture, is curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.


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